A crime scene in Mexico

And so, how is Mexico doing? Is the violence rising or falling under the current administration? We don’t know, and we won’t know for a number of months.

1. And we begin again with the dispute over the homicide figures. Last week, Milenio stated that in January, 957 killings were registered in the whole country, a total of 1,939 in the first two months of the current six-year term. By Reforma’s count, January saw 769 homicides linked to organized crime, which places the total at 1,524 in the first two months of Peña Nieto’s government. For its part, La Jornada published some mysterious data, obtained from "federal employees that worked in the national security cabinet," according to which 1,758 people would have been killed in incidents related “to disputes between criminal groups” or in "confrontations."

2. Which of these numbers are correct? None. According to the Secretary General of National Public Safety (SESNSP), 1,569 previous confirmations of intentional homicide were registered in December. It is highly probable that January’s number will be similar, giving an approximate total of 3,200 intentional homicides in the first two months of the current administration (we will know the precise figure in a couple of weeks when SESNSP releases January’s information).

3. And how many of those 3,200 are linked to organized crime? Nobody knows and those who say they know, don’t. The independent murder counts (and the official count used until a few months ago) are constructed based on inferences: they use some characteristics of the incidents or of the victims (presumed use of a firearm, messages next to the corpse, etc.) in order to suppose that a homicide could have been connected with something vague called "organized crime." But they are no more than that – assumptions not validated by judicial investigations which could allow the motives behind the homicides to be explained.

4. Are 3,200 homicides committed during the first two months of the current government many or few? Well, it depends what you are comparing it against: compared to the 1,799 homicides that were committed in the first two months of the government of Felipe Calderon, they are a lot. Compared to the 3,354 that were committed in December 2011 and January 2012, they represent a slight reduction (of approximately -4.5 percent). Against the peak numbers (the 4,128 registered in the period May-June 2011), they signify a drop of 22 percent (although this comparison is somewhat deceptive – see the following point).

5. But did the violence increase in December compared to November, or not? Well yes, but those types of month-to-month comparisons, crude and without any adjustments, are absurd: a) there are calendar effects that complicate the comparisons (December has more days than November, for example, b) there are seasonal effects (there are more homicides in summer than in winter and in December, the count rises as an effect of year-end festivities), and c) a few situational occurrences can shift the totals without causing changes in the underlying trend.

6. And so, how are we doing? Is violence rising or falling in the current administration? We don’t know and we won’t know for a number of months. Until December, it was decreasing: in 2012, the number of intentional homicides dropped 8.5 percent compared to the year before, the first decrease at an annual rate since 2007. If one takes a mobile average of three months, in December it reached the lowest level since April 2010. Will this trend continue in 2013? No idea: I’ll tell you when I have the figures.

7. But in some regions the situation is getting worse, isn’t it? Yes, but in others it is getting better: there is Ciudad Juarez, but likewise, there is the case of Nuevo Leon: in the fourth trimester, the number of intentional homicides decreased 48 percent with respect to the same period in 2011. In general, there are more examples of improvement than deterioration: in 2012, the number of intentional homicides decreased in 20 of 32 federal entities.

8. But what about the killing sprees? Aren’t the case of Kombo Kolombia or the cascade of multiple homicides in the State of Mexico signs of an imminent explosion in the levels of violence? No: to use the terminology of Nate Silver, that is noise, not a signal. As spectacular and perturbing as they are, the massacres do not define the overall state of criminal violence in the country. Incidents involving ten or more victims are counted at a few tens each year: the grand majority of homicides have only one victim (or two at the most).

9. And what then? What do we do as more data appears? Demand the government to publish the information as quickly as possible: it is the least that can be asked of an administration that has made the reduction of violence the principal objective of its security policy.

Translated and reprinted with permission from *Alejandro Hope, of Plata o Plomo, a blog on the politics and economics of drugs and crime published by Animal Politico. Read the Spanish original here. Hope is also a member of InSight Crime's Board of Directors.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...